Friday, April 6, 2018

Howard U's week long student protest and sit-in is over; administration agrees to 7 of 9 demands

Howard University has recently been in the national news: students have staged a week-long protest, occupying the administration building. The protest grew out a recent scandal where university employees stole $1 million out of the school's financial aid budget. The employees were fired but students and others criticized the university for a lack of transparency -- the school learned of the thefts in 2016, which began in 2007, but didn't tell anyone.

The scandal also brought forth a number of long-simmering complaints by the students about poor facilities, a difficult and unclear housing selection problems, a dismissive attitude by administrators, increased tuition, health and safety concerns such as sexual assault, increased mental health services and the desire to disarm Howard University Police, the resignation of the university president, and more student say in decisions on campus. They posted their demands on twitter, and the university president also faces a no-confidence vote from faculty.

And just now, WAMU reports that the protest has ended with Howard agreed to 7 of the 9 demands: all but the president and Board of Trustees resigning were agreed to. Howard also released a statement about the agreement, and in an email, the chair of the Board of Trustees, called the protests "an inflection point" for the university.

Howard agreed to extend the deadline for a housing deposit (which was originally announced one day before it was due), a new student ombudsperson to help address issues, counseling and mental health services, looking at a tuition freeze, a new task force to look at whether the campus police should be armed, a grievance reporting system for conduct for students, faculty, staff and administrators, a sexual assault and gender harassment task force, and a food pantry for students.

The Howard statement is below:

Howard University Board of Trustees and Howard Administration Commitments
This Statement of Commitments, dated April 6, 2018, issued by the Howard University Board of Trustees and the University Administration, addresses concerns that have been raised about student life at Howard University. While the commitments may have been discussed with HUResist and HUSA leaders, in light of recent events, these commitments are meant to address the needs, and are for the benefit and welfare, of the entire Howard University community.
•    The deadline for submitting the institution’s $200 housing deposit was extended to May 1, 2018. A community wide announcement of the extension was already shared on April 1, 2018.
•    If the housing deadline extension results in a significant number of students requesting on- campus housing, the Quad renovation will be delayed to accommodate additional occupancy.
•    Howard will engage students in examining the adequacy of on-campus housing to meet Howard’s housing policy that states: “All Howard University first year (0 or 1 completed semesters of post- high school education) and second year (2 or 3 completed semesters of post-high school education) students under the age of 21 will be required to live on campus, unless living at home with a parent or guardian,” and measure against bed availability.
•    Students will have a voice in selecting the student ombudsperson. The ombudsperson will be a graduate student who will be located in the Blackburn Center, and will report to the VP for Student Affairs and is expected to attend the Board Student Life and Affairs Committee meetings to make reports.
•    The health and  well-being  of  our  community  is  of  critical  importance,  and  the  Board  and administration want to be supportive of the well-being of our students.  Howard will implement the Proposal for a Joint Student-Administration Task Force to Enhance Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Services, dated April 1, 2018. Counseling provided under this Proposal will place emphasis on helping students overcome the anxiety of reporting sexual violence to the authorities.  The Task Force will be co-chaired by a student and review the process for intake and will report to the Vice President for Student Affairs.
•    The Board recognizes the cost of tuition is an area of utmost importance to the entire Howard community. Howard will commit to making a recommendation to the Board to consider holding undergraduate tuition at current levels for the academic year 2019-20 while working with the Tuition Rates and Fees Committee, which already includes student representation, to assess tuition and fees for academic year 2020-21. As part of this process, the University will make comparative data used to inform its decisions available to the student body.
•    While Howard’s goal has always been to ensure the safety of our campus community, a separate task force, co-chaired by a student, will be created to undertake a comprehensive review of the Howard Department of Public Safety, focusing on its engagement with the Howard student body, the use of force, training and whether there is a need for armed officers. The task force shall be represented by administration, faculty and student stakeholders, will include experts in criminal justice, and will set forth the process and timeline for its work. The task force will be established by July 1, 2018.
•    The Board agrees to establish a task force, co-chaired by a student, with representation from the Howard student body and Howard administration to review existing grievance mechanisms at the University, and best practices at other universities, and establishing a grievance system that holds faculty, administrators and students accountable in their language and actions towards anyone in the Howard community. Any inappropriate behavior goes against Howard’s core values and will not be tolerated by the Howard community.  Howard will maintain the existing anonymous hotline as a channel to report such grievances. Professors will be reminded of their obligations to advise students of how to avail themselves of the grievance process for questioning grades.
•    The Board is committed to fostering and maintaining an academic and living environment that is free of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of interpersonal violence.  As part of our commitment, we recently thoroughly assessed our Title IX policies and processes, gathered student, faculty and staff feedback during this process, and unveiled last year a new interim Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment. To further support this critical area for our campus community, a task force, co-chaired by a student, will be established with representation from the Howard student body, faculty and administration for the purpose of examining the current climate on Howard’s campus around sexual assault, sexual harassment and interpersonal violence and providing feedback to the administration on changes in policy and process as appropriate to improve student safety and prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment and interpersonal violence.  Included in the scope of work of the task force, working with the Office of the Provost, is consideration of instituting a mandatory 1-credit course with a curriculum designed to emphasize prevention of sexual assault, sexual harassment and interpersonal violence.  Every reasonable action will be taken to start up the task force so that it can begin its work before April 30, 2018.  For the sake of clarity, the proposal to establish Howard University Hospital as a site for rape kit examinations of victims of sexual assault is a matter of local law and is not part of this commitment. The University will provide transportation to sexual assault victims to Washington Hospital Center, the location where rape kit examinations are administered.
•    Howard will  support  a  student-led  effort  to  establish  a  food  pantry  in  the  LeDroit-Shaw community and will allocate money for that purpose.  Student volunteer involvement in service to, and fundraising for, the food pantry will be encouraged. Students are commended for the concern shown for the greater LeDroit-Shaw community and at Howard, we always want to be good community stewards. A plan for the food pantry will be submitted by students to the VP for External Affairs by June 1, 2018. While the University has a long history of commitment to and involvement in the community, the University will consider by June 1, 2019 the establishment of a community development organization which might allow for more inclusive community engagement on select real estate projects where no contractual obligations currently exist (not involving existing real estate holdings or immediate core development opportunities).   The University’s Ethics Policy requires that it comply with “the requirements of [all] laws.”  As a party to eight collective bargaining agreements, the University is subject to the National Labor Relations Act relating to fair labor practices. The University will continue to draw on the resources of the School of Law’s Fair Housing Clinic to assist members of the community.
•    Subject to approval of the Board Governance Committee, a Board Committee on Student Life and Affairs will be established on which trustees, including student trustees, the President of HUSA and other appropriate stakeholders, will engage with the student body, providing a forum to convey concerns regarding all aspects of student life to the Board as needed. The Howard administration will create more opportunities for dialogue with students and the Committee will establish a mechanism for such engagement.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please don't advertise in the comments, and please enter some kind of name when you comment instead of being anonymous.

If the post is more than 28 days old, your comment must be approved first.